> Subphylum Vertebrata > fishes
learn only 3 things about them ...
They are well camouflaged. Look carefully to find them.
Some have venomous spines. Don't handle them!
venom is only used for protection from predators and not
to catch prey.
seen? These prickly well-camouflaged fishes are seen on
many of our shores, in seagrass and coral rubble areas. Masters of
disguise, some can also be very small. Most stay motionless and thus
do not betray their presence through movement. Patience and a keen
eye is required to spot one.
What are scorpionfishes? Scorpionfishes
belong to the Family Scorpaenidae. Among members of this family are
the most venomous fishes known. According to FishBase:
the family has 23 genera and 172 species, most are bottom-dwellers.
They are found on tropical and temperate seas. Some of the fishes
that used to be in Family Scorpaenidae are now placed under several
different families including Family Apistidae (wasp scorpionfishes),
Family Tetrarogidae (waspfishes) and Family Synanceiidae (stonefishes).
Features: Some are tiny and hide
among seaweeds. Others may be larger. Scorpionfishes have large heads.
There is a bony ridge on the cheek. The scorpionfish's mottled pattern
matches its surroundings perfectly. Sometimes, the same species living
in different locations can have different colours and patterns. It
can also darken and lighten its colours. Scorpionfishes are generally
bottom dwellers. Some species lack a swim bladder.
Sting like a fish: The common
name of these fishes comes from the stinging pain that they can inflict.
When stepped upon or mishandled, the stout spines on the dorsal fins
act like hypodermic needles, injecting venom into the offending foot
or hand. The venom is excruciating to humans. Some species are commonly
called waspfishes for their nasty stings. Some also have venomous
anal and pelvic fins. Scorpionfishes should thus NOT be handled. Even
A scorpionfish uses its venom only for protection and not to catch
or kill prey. The scorpionfish is not aggressive and prefers to hide
or swim away, using its venom only as a last resort. The best way
to avoid being stung is simply not to disturb or touch one.
Scorpionfish mimic: The False
scorpionfish (Centrogenys vaigiensis) looks and behaves
like a scorpionfish but belong to the Family Serranidae which includes
groupers. By mimicking the more venomous scorpionfishes, the false
scorpionfish probably manages to discourage most predators. Here's
more on how to tell apart fishes that
look like stones.
What do they eat? Most scorpionfishes
skulk on or near the bottom, staying motionless for hours to ambush
passing prey. They will eat any prey that can fit into the large mouth
including fishes and crustaceans. Some species may specialise in a
particular kind of prey.
Scorpionfish babies: Most scorpionfishes
reproduce through internal fertilisation. Some species lay their eggs
in a gelatinous balloon. The larvae are planktonic.
Human uses: Scorpionfishes are
venomous but not poisonous. In temperate climates, large members of
this group called rockfishes or rockcods (Sebastes sp.) are
considered good eating and are caught by sport fishermen as well as
commercially for as food fish. Rockfishes are vulnerable to overfishing
as they grow slowly and reach maturity late.
Tropical scorpionfishes of various kinds are extensively harvested
from the wild for the live aquarium trade. The Lionfish (Pterois
volitans) is particularly popular. Harvesting tropical scorpionfishes
for the live aquarium trade may involve the use of cyanide or blasting,
which damage the habitat and kill many other creatures. Like other
fish and creatures harvested for the live aquarium trade, most die
before they can reach the retailers. Without professional care, most
die soon after they are sold. Those that do survive are unlikely to
Status and threats: Some of our
scorpionfishes are listed among the threatened animals of Singapore.
Like other creatures of the intertidal zone, they are affected by
human activities such as reclamation and pollution. Trampling by careless
visitors, and over-collection also have an impact on local populations.
Scorpaenidae recorded for Singapore
from Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity
in red are those listed among the threatened
animals of Singapore from Ng, P. K. L. & Y. C. Wee, 1994.
The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened Plants and Animals of Singapore.
+From our observation
Parascorpaena picta (Painted scorpionfish)
Pterois sp. (Lionfish) with species recorded for Singapore.
+Scorpaenopsis diabolus (False
Sebastapistes tristis=**Sebastapistes strongia
Family Apistidae (wasp scorpionfishes)
Family Tetrarogidae (waspfishes)
Vespicula trachinoides (Mangrove waspfish)
uranoscopus (Stargazer waspfish)
- Wee Y.C.
and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore.
National Council on the Environment. 163pp.
- Lim, S.,
P. Ng, L. Tan, & W. Y. Chin, 1994. Rhythm of the Sea: The Life
and Times of Labrador Beach. Division of Biology, School of
Science, Nanyang Technological University & Department of Zoology,
the National University of Singapore. 160 pp.
- Allen, Gerry,
Fishes of South-East Asia: A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers.
Periplus Editions. 292 pp.
- Kuiter, Rudie
H. 2002. Guide
to Sea Fishes of Australia: A Comprehensive Reference for Divers
New Holland Publishers. 434pp.
Ewald and Robert Myers. 2001. Coral
Reef Fishes of the World
Periplus Editions. 400pp.